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Steps Employers Should Take When Accused of Sexual Harassment

For employers who have been accused of sexual harassment, it is very important to proceed with extreme caution.  Specifically, what employers say and do may be used against them if an employee ultimately decides to file a lawsuit.   The following are some useful tips employers should consider when faced with a sexual harassment claim:

  • Don’t try to get the last word in with potential accusers.  Treat them objectively and do not become angry or vengeful towards them.
  • Don’t second guess an employee who reports an incident of sexual harassment.  Take the information very seriously and advise them that immediate action will be taken to address the situation.
  • Initiate an investigation of the accusation, including the source and the context in which statements were made.
  • Take the legal stance of innocent until proven guilty.  Meaning, do not treat the accused any differently until the investigation is completed.
  • Keep the accusations confidential.  Having the accused maligned by rumors or subjected to a potentially hostile work environment can create further legal complications for employers.
  • Contact an experienced labor and employment attorney who can assist employers in determining an appropriate course of action to investigate sexual harassment claims and how to discipline the offender appropriately.

An Ounce of Prevention…

Unfortunately, courts and juries do not look favorably upon employers who fail to take proactive measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.  As such, the following suggestions may help employers avoid liability for sexual harassment:

  • Develop a comprehensive anti-harassment policy, including one that addresses same-sex harassment.
  • Provide harassment training for all employees, including new hires and those in supervisory positions.
  • Disseminate information throughout the workplace about the company’s anti-harassment policies and procedures, and make sure that all employees have are properly notified about them, whether through memos, letters, employee handbooks or employee meetings.

Contact an experienced employment law attorney who can advise you of all the additional steps necessary to protect your company.

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